Many fans all across the country, myself included, have been waiting anxiously for the NBA season to come back. The season was taken away from us when the league decided to postpone the season back in March due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the MVP race between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James was beginning to heat up, and fans have been waiting for months to see who would stand out in the league restart and claim the award. Unfortunately, this is not something we will get to see, as the NBA announced on Monday that all games in Orlando for the league restart would not count towards voting for all NBA awards. This includes NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and all three All-NBA teams. Voters can only look back at the first 3/4 of the season that was played and make their picks based on those games. Since we already have the sample size and final criteria to make picks off of, I decided to make an article outlining who I think will take home each award this year, excluding the All-NBA Teams. Without further ado, let’s jump right in, starting with MVP.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
What if I told you that a guy who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists while leading his team to 60 wins on route to an MVP award would get even better the next season? That is precisely what Giannis Antetokounmpo was doing this season before the season was postponed. Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists this season, somehow improving upon an already impressive 2019 MVP campaign. His team also had the best record in the NBA, sitting at 53-12, with 17 games remaining. I think that it is safe to say that the Bucks would’ve surpassed their previous season’s total of 60 wins on the season. Although LeBron James and the Lakers were only a few games behind the Bucks for the top seed and he was having a stellar season himself, I think that Giannis’ production and team success will ultimately win him his 2nd consecutive MVP award. However, I believe that we could see James and Antetokounmpo face off for a different prize at the end of the NBA bubble…
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Anthony Davis
Although I do believe that Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a season worthy of earning a Defensive Player of the Year Award, I don’t think that voters will give him both awards. A player rarely wins both the MVP and DPOY, and that is why I think Anthony Davis will win the award. Davis had a stellar defensive year, posting 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. On top of those numbers, Davis also contested the 3rd most threes of any player in the league, showing that he is more than just a rim protector when it comes to defense. Davis has never taken home an individual end-of-season award despite making seven All-Star Games and three All-NBA teams in his eight years in the NBA. I believe that voters will award Davis the DPOY thanks to his impressive play on the defensive side of the ball and bolster the resume of one of the game’s best players.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Ja Morant
Many people might be upset with this pick, as Zion Williamson somehow lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him when he finally made his debut this year. However, he only played in 19 games, which is a clear indication that he should not win the award. Ja Morant will take home the ROY, and what he has done for the Memphis Grizzlies this year should also not go unnoticed. Morant was drafted with the 2nd overall pick behind Williamson in the 2019 NBA Draft and immediately impacted the Grizzlies. Memphis, who finished 33-49 the year before, was sitting at the West’s 8th seed before the season was suspended. Morant was also averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game, which are some very respectable numbers, no less for a rookie. Morant’s impact on the floor went further beyond his individual play, and Memphis got exponentially better as a team. Despite Williamson’s greatness, I believe Morant deserves to take home the ROY.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Luka Doncic
The Most Improved Player Award was probably the hardest award to pick this year, as many players took big leaps in their play this year. Bam Adebayo established himself as a top center in the East, Brandon Ingram flashed his potential once he got to a new team, and Jayson Tatum solidified himself as the face of the Celtics. However, I decided to go with Luka Doncic for the Most Improved Player Award. As hard as it is to improve upon a rookie season that saw Doncic average 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, he did just that. Doncic improved his scoring output by 7 points, averaging 28.7 points per game. He recorded 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game, nearly averaging a triple-double at only 21 years old. Doncic also had his Mavericks team sitting as the 7th seed in the West before the season was postponed, and they are only four games behind the 3rd seeded Denver Nuggets. The fact that Luka established himself as a top-five player in the NBA in just his 2nd season in the league proves that he deserves to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
6th Man of the Year
Winner: Montrezl Harrell
Lou Williams is often in the discussion for the 6th Man of the Year Award, as he has consistently produced at a high level off the bench his whole career. However, I think that his Clippers teammate, Montrezl Harrell, will take home this award. Harrell, a relatively undersized center, primarily comes off the bench for Los Angeles to start the bigger Ivica Zubac. That does not mean that Harrell isn’t a better player than Zubac, and this season clearly shows us that. Harrell averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in 27.8 minutes per game off the bench. He was a capable scorer off the pick and roll and was a solid defender despite his 6’7 size. He was also an excellent screen-setter for the Clippers this season and contributed significantly to their 3rd ranked offense in the NBA. Harrell is also only in his 5th season in the NBA and is 26 years old, meaning he has even more time and room to improve upon his already impressive game.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Nick Nurse
I could’ve gone with Mike Budenholzer repeating as Coach of the Year for this award, as he somehow improved upon a season that saw his team go 60-22. But after seeing what Nick Nurse has done with his defending champion Raptors team this year, I think the award should go to him. Following Kawhi Leonard’s departure from the team to move to the Clippers last summer, many fans and experts were skeptical about how Toronto would fare in the East the next season. This year’s Raptors team exceeded most expectations, as they are sitting at 46-18 as the 2nd seed in the East. Even without their star player from the year before, Toronto finds themselves primed to make another run at the title in 2020. The Raptors got much more production out of last year’s Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam, who was an All-Star starter in the Eastern Conference this year. Toronto also still has one of the best bench units in the game, with players like Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka holding it down for the reserves. Nurse’s ability to field another competitive team without the need for Kawhi Leonard is why he’s my pick to take home this year’s Coach of the Year Award.